The UK’s foremost investor in battery technologies has selected a site in the North East of England to build the UK’s first battery gigaplant.
Britishvolt said it had bought the 235-acre (95 hectare) former Blyth Power Station site in Northumberland and intends to begin construction this summer.
The company which produces electric vehicle batteries has submitted a detailed planning application with Northumberland County Council for the scheme on the site. It is hoped that the scheme could ultimately create 8,000 new jobs at the plant and associated supply chain.
Total investment for Britishvolt’s gigaplant is £2.6bn, making it the largest industrial investment in the North East since Nissan’s arrival in 1984 and one of the largest-ever industrial investments in the UK. By the final phase of the project in 2027 it will be employing up to 3,000 highly skilled people, producing lithium-ion batteries for the UK automotive industry. It is envisaged it will create up to 5,000 jobs in the wider supply chain.
Britishvolt has entered into a collaboration agreement with Siemens to accelerate the development and production of lithium-ion batteries at the Blyth site. Siemens is providing Britishvolt with design and simulation development tools that will help accelerate the time it takes for lithium-ion battery cells to go from laboratory to production.
Britishvolt Chairman, Peter Rolton said: “This is a hugely positive and historic move forward for Britishvolt,” adding: “Northumberland County Council has helped us secure the best site in the UK for a gigaplant.” The site was bought for an undisclosed sum from the county council.
At the time of its closure, Blyth Power Station was the oldest coal-fired power station in Britain. There had been various plans to save the station, but they all fell through and the generation of electricity at the station ceased on 31 January 2001, after 43 years of operating, resulting in the loss of 131 jobs.
Britishvolt CEO, Orral Nadjari said “Blyth meets all of our exacting requirements and could be tailor made. It is on the doorstep of major transport links, easily accessible renewable energy, and the opportunity for a co-located supply chain, meets our target to make our gigaplant the world’s cleanest and greenest battery facility”.
He added: “We have had an extremely warm welcome from Ian Levy MP and Northumberland County Council and are looking forward to working with them closely on this project.”
Reacting to the news, Blyth Valley MP, Conservative, Ian Levy said: “This is an incredibly exciting announcement that will have a massive impact in the constituency and the surrounding area for decades to come. I can’t think of anything comparable in the North East since Nissan invested in Sunderland more than 35 years ago”.
Britishvolt’s gigaplant is widely regarded as being strategically important for the UK automotive industry to maintain competitive advantage as the country accelerates towards an increasingly electrified future.
The Britishvolt gigaplant will be built on a 95-hectare brownfield site and will use renewable energy, having the potential to use hydro-electric power generated in Norway and transmitted 447 miles under the North Sea via the world’s longest inter-connector from the North Sea Link project.
The building of a battery gigaplant is also one of the key pillars of the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson’s, ten-point plan for the UK’s green recovery and an important step to a Net Zero economy by 2050.
Last November Mr Johnson set out his ambitious plan for a green industrial revolution in Britain which he says will create and support up to 250,000 British jobs.
The plan covers clean energy, transport, nature, and innovative technologies and is part of the PM’s mission to level up across the country. At the centre of Mr Johnson’s blueprint are the UK’s industrial heartlands, including in the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber, West Midlands, Scotland, and Wales.
With cars and vans making up nearly a fifth of emissions, the government say they are taking decisive action to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030, with all vehicles being required to have a significant zero emissions capability (e.g. plug-in and full hybrids) from 2030 and be 100 % zero emissions from 2035.
To facilitate Mr Johnson’s ambitious plan and help alleviate concerns about the support framework for electric vehicles the government have pledged to invest £1.3 billion to accelerate the roll out of a charging infrastructure. There will be targeted support for rapid charge points on motorways and major roads to dash any anxiety around long journeys and the installation of more on-street charge points near homes and workplaces to make charging as easy as refuelling a petrol or diesel car.
All good news for Britishvolt and the North East economy.
The UK is already a leading a manufacturer of electric vehicles. The Nissan Leaf, produced in the UK, was the third highest selling EV in Europe in 2019. Currently there are over 100 models of electric vehicles on the market, and by 2025 half of all new cars produced will be electric.
The government have also announced a consultation on a date for phasing out the sale of new diesel heavy goods vehicles and are to invest £20 million next year in trials to pioneer hydrogen and other zero emission lorries.
By 2027 Britishvolt hopes to be producing enough batteries for 300,000 electric cars a year.